Kids & Parenting

How to teach children tolerance

By April Hall
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If you want your child to have friends from different cultures, make an effort to expose them to diversity. Choose a school that is a heterogeneous mixture of races, physical abilities, and cultures
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Follow these easy steps to teach your child tolerance.

American society is so much more diverse than it was even a generation ago that it is no wonder the buzzword for many schools and organizations is tolerance. All of us want to be respected for our heritages, races, or religions; and because we are faced with more diversity in these qualities than ever before, it is important that we try to understand each other. Although it is fairly easy for adults to learn tolerance—and, better yet, appreciation—for the diversity of those around them, it is even easier for children to learn to live and play with each other.


If you are ever skeptical about the innate tolerance of small children, just spend some time observing preschoolers on a typical playground. There is very little concern for anyone's race, religion, or country of origin. The children simply play with anyone who is interested in a particular game or toy, regardless of their last name or skin color. Why is this innocence somehow lost the older we get? If you feel strongly that you want your own children to retain this acceptance of others' differences, here are a few ways that you can begin teaching your child tolerance.


Show Tolerance Yourself


Whether you realize it or not, your children look to you as a model of how to treat others. If they see you with friends of different cultures and races, enjoying spending time together, they will grow up with the belief that tolerance is simply a way of life. You may have grown up in a home where racial jokes were told or people of different races were stereotyped, but stop the cycle in your own home. Let your children witness you actively learning about traditions and cultures different from their own, and they will begin to model that behavior themselves.


Expose Your Child to Diversity


Pay attention to your child's school and social organizations. If you want your child to have friends from different cultures, make an effort to expose them to diversity. Choose a school that is a heterogeneous mixture of races, physical abilities, and cultures, and get involved. Enroll your child in programs and on sports teams that have a representation of different cultures. Whatever you do, the key to tolerance is exposure and education, so make an effort to give your child an opportunity to make friends with all kinds of people. Teaching children tolerance is very easy if they have many different types of friends—no one stereotypes people they actually know!


Build Your Child's Self-Esteem


Often, people will look down on others as a way to feel better about themselves. Make sure that your child realizes his or her own uniqueness and incredible self-worth, and your child will begin to look for those same qualities in others. One way to do this is to teach your son or daughter as much as you can about your own culture and religion. Make sure that the child knows and is proud that his or her own culture is just as important, interesting, and valuable as everyone else's.


Wanting to learn about teaching children tolerance is a very commendable step! Not only will you be making some very real progress in making your child more compassionate and interesting, but you will also be helping your child achieve in school and in the professional workplace. We live in a multicultural world, and successful people need to understand the culture of their fellow students and coworkers. By raising children who are not frightened of the diversity of our world—and, in fact, welcome and appreciate it—you will be giving your child the beautiful gift of tolerance, an incredible gift that will last a lifetime.

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